Public portion of Sysco site work begins

Officials in Starke County are still hoping to land 500-new jobs and a food redistribution center, but now, they’re taking it one step further.

Groundbreaking ceremonies were held Thursday to mark the start of some four million dollars worth of public water and sewer improvements needed to accommodate the plant.

The move comes with little knowledge of when the private part of the project will start.

The proposed redistribution center was first announced by Sysco Corporation in the spring of 2006, the company has yet to break ground or provide a firm timetable for doing so.

“There was a little bit of concern and trepidation about going ahead and starting the project without actually seeing t hem put a shovel into the ground,” said Starke County Commissioner Kathy Norem. “But we, our grant was going to expire to pay for this if we didn’t get started on our project.”

Today, Starke County government ceremonially started the site preparation work it promised to do to lure the 90-million dollar food redistribution center—and its promised 500 new jobs to town.

“I feel personally they will be here,” said Starke County Commissioner Daniel Bridegroom.

Bridegroom feels that the Sysco Corporation didn’t so much renege on a promise to build here, as it paused to redesign a facility that the company had already built somewhere else.

“The system they had built was not functioning properly; they were going to build a sister building just like that here. Very, very good management decision if it’s not working in one place let's not build another one here,” Bridegroom reasoned.

Now it seems that Sysco has another reason for not building.

“Sysco tells me everyday they’re coming, that when the economy starts to turn around—they’ll be here,” said Charles Weaver with the Starke County Development Foundation.

Problem is, when the economy turns around—is anybody’s guess.

“Well, obviously we get nervous and I think its their present intention to come, they've consistently told us and the people they've hired that will be at this site, everything they’ve done points to this,” said Weaver. “They've even gone so far as to guarantee some money that the county would have to pay back if they don't come, so they're putting their pocketbook right on the line for that.”

The decision to go ahead with the public improvements now was made easier by the fact that much of the four million dollar price tag is being paid with state and federal grants that were about to expire.

According to Weaver, the county is responsible for just $700-thousand of the total price tag.